Norwich travel to Cardiff in terrible form, with many expecting little from the match. Cardiff on the other hand are unbeaten at home in the league this season. Along Come Norwich anyone? Nah, thought not.
Jon Punt spoke to Nathan Walker from Ninian Opinion about Colin, Tony Pilks and the lowdown on this tale of two cities.
Jon: Cardiff have surprised many this term. As much as I identified them as dark horses to contend, it was difficult to conceive the Bluebirds would start the season so well. Sure, there were signs of genuine improvement during the last campaign, but the way in which you've continued to grind out results has stunned nearly everyone.
What's been the secret to your success? Is this just a case of Warnock assembling another rag tag bunch of professionals and fostering a real togetherness, or is there more to it?
Nathan: I think that's a massive part of it - but it's what he's done off the field that's arguably more impressive. If you look at the club when Warnock arrived, it was in a completely different state to what it is now.
The rebrand debacle was a big issue at the time but once the club returned to its traditional blue in 2015, the wider footballing community might have been appeased but there was still a lot of resentment from those who follow Cardiff City. In the eyes of some, Cardiff had lost its soul and it didn't feel like their team anymore. It was a club severely divided.
The apathy wasn't helped by the awful quality of football - a result of extreme cost-cutting - and Cardiff quickly found themselves languishing in the relegation zone, with things looking increasingly bleak.
Warnock made an instant impact, not just with the results but in getting fans back on the club's side. He was passionate and volatile, traits that you used to associate with Cardiff. He wasn't a 'yes-man' like his predecessors Paul Trollope, Russell Slade and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Finally the fans had a manager that was not only proven at this level, but would stand up to Vincent Tan and drag the club into actually competing again.
He's constantly going to pubs in Cardiff and its surrounding areas, meeting people, making them feel like they're on this journey with his side. It's polar opposite to what the club was like before his arrival. On the field he's managed to blend a team together that is working almost perfectly at the moment. We have the hallmarks of a 'Warnock side' if you will - strong, physical and combative are all attributes I'd give to this Cardiff team. There's also some excellent, technically-gifted players in the team that win us the games.
He's managed to mix proven players (Junior Hoilett, Sol Bamba) with ones that are new to this level (Nathaniel Mendez-Laing) and are desperate to achieve. It's worked thus far.
I want to hate Colin, sorry I mean Warnock, but it's difficult. He's honest, he gets what it means to the fans and he'll always front up when things have gone wrong. Plus he's a fan of Delia and her mum, so in a way I guess I kind of like him. Apart from his lack of eyebrows, that disturbs me greatly.
Warnock seems to have achieved all of this on a budget too, potentially proving you don't need the mega millions many are claiming to get out of the division. Do you think top 2 is now realistic for your lot or would you settle for play offs?
He's the pantomime villain - everyone loves to hate him! He's very clever in that he always talks up the opposition before a game. We're always coming up against a "fabulous club", playing at a "lovely ground" and, more often that not, facing a club where he's at least had an interview if not managed them.
I think the play-offs should still be the target. There's a gap of 11 points to 7th now and that's quite a big buffer but there's still a month of games before we even get to Christmas so I'm not getting ahead of myself. To stay around the automatics would be some feat but we're having to play close to perfect just to keep in touch with Wolves. With the likes of Villa coming up behind, I think we'll be somewhere between 3rd and 6th come May.
You surprise me, thought the ambition might be a tad loftier among your fans, especially given the consistency you’ve shown. Still, we’d rip your arm off for 6th right now, such has been the stop-start nature of our season.
Speaking of stop start, what’s happened to Anthony Pilkington at Cardiff? He was an excellent servant for Norwich under Paul Lambert but his attitude and attack-minded style meant he wasn’t quite for Chrissy Hughton’s teams all the time. Special player on his day with the ability to conjure something from nothing. Seems like he may have fallen out with the manager?
It might be among some, but I've seen enough of this club in my time to know that they could 'Cardiff' it up any minute.
Pilkington hasn't really had much of a shout since Warnock's arrival. He's had a few injuries which haven’t helped and because of the form of the other attacking options, he's struggling to get in the squads never mind in the starting eleven.
Warnock is a man who has his certain favourites and I doubt Pilkington will earn his way into that category any time soon. I feel a bit for him because he's always floated between positions at Cardiff and nobody knows where to fit him in. It's a shame because, like you said, on his day he is a match-winner.
Onto the players that are actually on the pitch, who should Norwich be looking out for? I’ve always been a fan of Peter Whittingham and was surprised to see him move to Blackburn. I’m guessing the enigmatic Hoilett could pose a threat if he’s in the mood?
I thought we would miss Whittingham more than what we have done to be honest. Despite limited playing time last season, he still contributed to quite a lot of goals. Luckily other players have stepped up.
Hoilett is definitely the one to watch. He’s had a super season so far and is in a confident mood following a goal last Sunday. The other winger Mendez-Laing is expected to be back and striker Danny Ward is playing well. A lot is made of Cardiff’s defence but Norwich will have to be a wary of a lightning quick attack on Friday.
Ah brilliant, pace. We don’t traditionally do well against quick forwards so you might have some joy against us. On the flip side, where can we get at you and is there anyone the Cardiff fans will be fearing in particular?
Considering we've lost the last four against you, I always fear Norwich coming to Cardiff. But, having seen your manager describe your injury list this morning, I'm a bit more optimistic.
Cardiff have been defensively excellent recently, going three games without conceding, so there's no glaring weakness for Norwich to exploit. If I was being extremely picky, it would be that our full-backs stand off too much so there may be something there.
I'd be a bit wary of Alex Pritchard if he plays some part. As well as that, I'm pretty sure Cameron Jerome will score against us at some point.
You’ll be pleased to know Pritchard is only like to feature for 30 minutes tops and Cameron Jerome is nursing a foot injury. So, not much to worry about. I’ll go for a 1-1 dour draw more in hope than anything else. Your prediction?
Scrappy 1-0 win for Cardiff.
While you're here. Two things; first, did you know we have a new podcast? It's available via iTunes and Soundcloud. Alternatively you can just listen to it in your browser via our podcast page. Thomas Markham-Uden from Barclay End Norwich was this week's guest. He gives his thoughts on the atmosphere at Carrow Road and what can be done to improve it
Second, to keep AlongComeNorwich advert free and to help us fund additional initiatives aimed at improving the Carrow Road atmosphere, we occasionally produce exclusive t-shirts/merchandise.
This time we've produced garments celebrating our rightful place as the Pride of Anglia. As always, we take no profit from these and put all the revenue back into the site and things we can all enjoy.